Two Rochester police officers have been suspended over an incident caught on video, Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli said Thursday.
The officers, who were not identified by the department, were responding to complaints about noise involving a dirt bike on Sunday night on Northampton Street, Ciminelli said at a news conference. They have been suspended with pay.
Michael Mazzeo, the president of the Rochester Police Locust Club, the police union, said the suspensions weren’t justified. The video, Mazzeo said, shows officers in a police car approaching a man on a dirt bike from behind, getting out of their car, and then pulling the man off the bike. The man is thrown to the ground after being pulled off the bike.
“The video does raise some concerns, and based on the available documentation we have, we couldn’t answer those concerns,” Ciminelli said. He said the case was referred to the department’s Professional Standards Section for a full investigation.
Four officers were at the scene. The two suspended officers were field training officers who were training two new recruits, whose job was only to observe. The role and participation of the new officers will be part of the investigation, Ciminelli said.
“We need to understand the justification for the use of force,” he said. He stressed that the suspensions should not be interpreted as a finding of guilt or misconduct. Northampton Street runs between Emerson and Bergen streets in the Lyell-Otis neighborhood in northwest Rochester.
A body camera worn by an officer did not capture the incident, Ciminelli said. A draft police report was completed; it had not been reviewed and approved.
The person who was apprehended in the video was given a traffic ticket for unlicensed operation, Ciminelli said.
“Whenever an officer uses force, that officer has an obligation to articulate the justification for the force,” Ciminelli said. “That’s what we have to get into — why it was done, how it was done, did it follow our training, our policies, and that’s what we’re going to be looking at.”
Mazzeo reiterated that the union thinks the suspensions are unwarranted. He said the officers were “acting on information they had.” Mazzeo neglected to reveal the nature of the information.
“The takedown was appropriate in order to secure this individual who wasn’t complying,” Mazzeo said. “The information that they had gave them the need to even use extra caution. There is intelligence and information relevant to this individual. I’m sure the department doesn’t want to put that out there, but they certainly have access to it.”
Mazzeo said department administration isn’t sending the right message to officers with these suspensions. He said suspensions are rare. “This is a knee-jerk reaction to a video,” Mazzeo said. Officers don’t feel supported, he said.
“It’s time the chief starts running the department,” Mazzeo said, “instead of running away from any media attention that is directed at him.”